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dour, which I anticipate from my venerable Diocesan, I feel myself justified in claiming from the Public.
In fact, had I nothing new to offer upon the subject, the discussing of it afresh would have been plainly superfluous ; but an attentive examination of the writings of Daniel and St. John has led me to think, that in some points my predecessors have partially erred, and that in others they have been altogether mistaken. In the interpretation of Prophecy knowledge is undoubtedly progressive. The predictions of Scripture, extending as they do from the earliest periods to the consummation of all things, although they be gradually opened partly by the hand of time and partly by human labour undertaken in humble dependence upon the divine aid, are yet necessarily in some measure a sealed book, even to the time of the end. As that time approaches, we may expect, agreeably to the angel's declaration to Daniel, that many will run to and fro, and that knowledge will be encreased. Hence it was observed by Sir Isaac Newton, that“ amongst the interpreters of the last age there is scarce one of note, who hath not made some discovery worth knowing.” Nothing however requires so much caution and prudence, so much hesitation and circumspection, as an attempt to. unfold these deep mysteries of God. An intemperate introduction of new interpretations is highly dangerous and mischievous : because it has a natural tendency to unsettle the minds of the careless and the wavering, and is apt to induce them hastily to take up the preposterous opinion that there can be no certainty in the exposition of Prophecy. On these grounds I have ever been persuaded, that a commentator discharges his duty but very imperfectly, if, when he advances a new interpretation of any prophecy that has been already interpreted, he
satisfies himself with merely urging in favour of his scheme the most plausible arguments that he has been able to invent. Of every prediction there may be
many erroneous expositions, but there can only be one that is right. It is not enough therefore for a commentator to fortify with elaborate ingenuity his own system. Before he can reasonably expect it to be adopted by others, he must shew likewise, that the expositions of his predecessors are erroneous in those points wherein he differs from them. Such a mode of writing as this may un. doubtedly expose him to the charge of captiousness : it will likewise unavoidably increase the size of his Work ; and may possibly weary those readers, who dislike the trouble of thoroughly examining a subject : but it will be found to be the only way, in which there is even a probability of attaining to the truth. This plan I have adopted : and it has at least been of infinite use to myself. It has at once compelled me, in the course of writing and revising the present Dissertation, to relinquish, as utterly untenable, many opinions which I had once adopted ; and it has confirmed me in adhering to those, which I have retained. In short, it enables me to say, that not a single new interpretation is here advanced without having been previously subjected to the severest scrutiny. Whatever would not bear the test of all the objections, which I was able to alledge against it myself, has been rejected, as still less being able to bear the test of those which others might alledge.
Flattering as the countenance of the great may be, that of the good as well as great is much more rationally satisfactory Your Lordship's character can be heightened by no testimony of mine. Yet I may be
allowed to say, that the favours which I have received from you, have been rendered doubly valuable, both by the manner in which they have been conferred, and by the recollection of the hand that conferred them.
I have the honour to be,
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
THE work, which is here offered to the Public, is founded upon the three following very simple principles.
1. To assign to each prophetic symbol its proper definite meaning, and never to vary from that meaning ;
2. To allow no interpretation of a prophecy to be valid, except the prophecy agree, in every particular, with the event to which it is supposed to relate ;
3. And to deny, that any link of a chronological prophecy is capable of receiving its accomplishment in more than one event.
If we examine the predictions of Daniel and St. John agreeably to these principles, we shall find, that two great enemies of the Gospel, Popery and Mohammedism, are described as commencing their tyrannical career together at the beginning of a certain period which comprehends 1260 years, and as perishing together at the end of it: that, towards the close of this period, a third power is in
, troduced; whose characteristic marks are a total disregard of all religion, an impious determination to do according to his will, and an open profession of absolute atheism blended nevertheless with the worship of a certain foreign god and other tutelary deities whom his fathers never knew : that this last power is likewise destined to be destroyed at the end of the 1260 years : that he will previously unite himself, for political reasons, with Popery : that the stage of their joint overthrow will be Palestine : and that, when the period of 1260 years is completed, the restoration of the Jews will commence. All these matters may, I think, be clearly deduced from
I propbecy : and the actual completion of many predictions relative to them afford us ample warrant for concluding, that the rest will likewise be accomplished in God's own good season.
The present awful state of the world naturally leads all serious men to search the Scriptures: and the attention of more than one modern writer has been laudably directed to the elucidation of those prophecies, which either have been fulfilled, or are now fulfilling. Those, who have considered the subject inost at large, are, I believe, Mr. Whitaker, Dr. Zouch, Mr. Kett, and Mr. Galloway.* Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Zouch, with some exceptions, have undertaken to defend the scheme of interpretation adopted by Mr. Mede and Bp. Newton: while Mr. Kett and Mr. Galloway, though they differ from each other in many points, bave avowedly attempted to establish a new scheme of interpretation.
1. Although I am not able to assent to several of Mr. Whitaker's opinions, most sincerely can I recommend his Commentary on the Revelation to the attention of every protestant, particularly every English protestant. At the present juncture, when Popery once more begins to rear its bydra head, a full statement of its abominable principles was peculiarly seasonable. This has been most satisfactorily executed by Mr. Whitaker : but he appears to me at the same time to have exceeded his commission, in branding the Papacy with the title of Antichrist. Many indeed and wonderfully explicit are the prophecies, which describe the detestable cruelties and unholy superstitions of that great Apostacy; which teach us the precise duration of its persecuting tyranny ; which foretell its union with rebellious Infidelity ; which point out both the place and manner of its destruction : but I have not yet been able to discover upon what scriptural grounds the name of Antichrist has been so generally applied to it. St. John is the only inspired writer who uses the term ; and nothing that he says relative to it, affords us any warrant for conferring it upon the Papacy. “He is Antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son the Church of Rome never denied either the Father or
* To these I might have added Archdeacon Woodhouse and Mr. Bicheno; but I had not read their writings at the time when the first edition of this work was published. In the present edition, those of Mr. Bicheno are occasionally animadverted upon in the notes : but the scheme of the Archdeacon possesses so much unity of design, that I found it more convenient to consider it altogether apart in an appendix.